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The wait for Season 2 of PokerHigh‘s The Player Hunt finally ended on September 9, when the first episode premiered on celebrity host and VJ Rannvijay Singha’s Official YouTube channel. The show hosted by Rannvijay and his younger brother Harman Singha brings bytes from the exciting poker-based reality show.
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The contestants were selected through an online qualification process on PokerHigh (Between March & Mid April) , and the actual show was shot at an offline location in April’22. Season 2, directed by Pranav Premnarayen of Prem Associates Advertising and Marketing, has been bundled into a seven-episode series, with one episode released per week. Rannvijay’s celebrity status and the “Roadies” aura came alive in the two episodes we saw in Season 2, but what caught our eye was his younger brother Harman`s lively presence in front of the camera.
A man of many talents, Harman is currently involved in a range of film and series projects, both as an actor, producer, and scriptwriter. Our apologies to all the women out there – Harman has two primary loves in his life – basketball and poker. He discovered the poker realm around a decade-and-half back and never stepped out of it. If the pull of playing poker in a casino was intriguing, as shown in the Hollywood flicks he watched, Harman’s circle of friends grew as he came across a like-minded poker-loving crowd. He’s been playing many social games and has hobnobbed with some of the top poker players in the country.
Co-hosting Season 2 had its challenges since delivering poker in a reality show format wasn’t a road much traveled. But Harman, who is entirely in love with the game, took things in his stride and let his ability to connect with the participant’s flow. With his energetic persona and communicative spirit, Harman certainly made things easier for the group of contestants.
We went heads-up recently with the effervescent Harman Singha, and he spilled the beans on what poker and being involved with the Player Hunt – Season 2 means to him.
All eyes of the poker community are riveted on The Player Hunt – Season 2, and Harman is excited about the show’s debut. In its own way, the show pitches in as an advocate for poker as a sport. He says his endeavor as part of the project is to maximize the audience for the performance. He is all applause for the PokerHigh team that brought the show from the drawing board to the ground, canvassing poker as a sport. “We are going to spread the joy, make as many people watch it. Many people are not in tune with what’s happening, so it’s our responsibility to show them the product.”
Harman feels India’s poker scene will blow up in the coming years, and the current players are at par with the global competition. He also shared glimpses of what happened on the show, in front of and behind the scenes, and gave us a sneak peek into a potential Season 3 in the making. Read on!
For Harman, poker began in 2006-07, when the game was gaining popularity on many social media platforms. He and his friend Bishop were greatly influenced after watching poker-oriented Hollywood movies like Casino Royale. Still, he was introduced to the game through friends and a series of social media films.
Card games always attracted him, and he had grown up playing a range of them within the family circle and friends or during his working years. The fact that poker is so much more than a card game caught his attention.
“Poker felt different. It felt a lot more engaging for me. I remember the first impression of playing the game was that being somebody decent at mathematics, not great; I enjoyed the fact that it had a lot of permutations and combinations and that the game can change so quickly with every reveal on the turn on the river.”
Fast forward to recent years, Harman says he and Rannvijay have a close group of friends living close by with a common interest in poker. The group usually gets together for poker nights to play. The stakes are generally very low, but it’s a great way to connect with friends.
“There’s always back and forth, and when two people are going heads up, it’s too much fun, and there’s a lot of trash talking in a group.”
Sometimes he says, someone new to the game joins and eventually ends up winning. “That is a lot of fun because all the set players know each other. They know each other’s tells, who will raise how much.”
During the lockdown months, they started playing with each other on the app online, but now with things easing out, they have resumed their fun home games.
Memorable Poker Moments
Harman recollects that around ten years back when he was playing a game of poker, he busted and fired another bullet. From losing it all, he went on an epic winning streak.
“I ended up cleaning the entire table, and we had an epic picture of me with all these chips, and actual money started coming out because everybody got very emotional.”
Another time, during a poker game, he held four-of-a-kind, and his opponent had a lower four-of-a-kind, kings versus tens. “That was a memorable hand because I remember thinking about the club, and I won the hand.”
Views on the Indian Poker Community
Harman feels that Indian poker is going far in providing players with an environment that matches global standards and nurtures talent.
“The level of Indian poker players is at par with the global level. They’re just so good….And I think the more I discover about the sport, the more I fall in love with it.”
Delivering Poker in a Reality Show Format
Harman was all applause for the PokerHigh app and poker veterans Vaibhav Gaggar and Gaurav Gaggar, the minds behind Player Hunt.
“I have had the fortune of engaging with the forces behind PokerHigh, and loved talking, learning from them,” Harman said.
“I felt like we were growing together because when we started this journey on the Player Hunt, it was like both sides taking a chance on the other, right? Mainly because they didn’t know how the show would pan out.”
He adds, “The PokerHigh app is fantastic….I’ve always loved playing on the app.”
But what enthuses him the most about the Player Hunt project is the common goal – pushing the sport ahead, the fact that poker takes precedence over all else.
“We all know that it’s a growing sport. All of us have to put a lot of effort into making it bigger every year. So we have together as a team, and we know it’s like a long-term project. It’s not just one season, two seasons. We want to see it keep going to a level where any kid growing up in India watches this and says, I want to be on this show. I want to do something with PokerHigh.”
The Player Hunt Season 2
According to Harman, if Season 1 impressed audiences, the effort through Season 2 was to make things smoother and more extensive. While it was a lot of fun, and an invaluable learning experience for him, co-hosting the show with his elder brother Rannvijay made it all the more special.
“I think it’s new to all of us. We are also figuring it out. I’ll tell you, The Player Hunt is exceptional because, first of all, contrary to popular belief, Rannvijay and I actually don’t work a lot together…It’s just fun because I speak unfiltered. I have no script as such, but I have a lot of fun doing it. Player Hunt is one of the most fun gigs I’ve had online.”
Fun apart, it was a great experience being around the team and the contestants for Harman. “Their energy always pushes me forward,” Harman shares, adding that usually, in reality shows, the participants are under a lot of pressure, but in The Player Hunt, they still have to be good at poker.
Season 2 – Growing the Game
Harman points out that sports content in India is limited to a few essential sports. Having said that, he feels Season 2 of The Player Hunt will be well received and help grow the game.
“I think it’s going to be really huge,” Harman says, adding that while the show may not become the biggest show in the world overnight, it’s a step in the right direction.
“We are trying to make our own space. I think there is an audience for us that loves watching reality shows, playing poker, and appreciating the game. Now, if we can merge these two somewhere, I think we have a great combo.”
Season 2 of the show focuses on bringing out the champion in each contestant, presenting them as people who will represent the brand and the game. “We focused a lot on the poker players having a superstar quality to them, because the eventual winners will be representing the brand, they will be going globally talking about this…If they grow, the sport grows.”
According to Harman, the show coming on Rannvijay`s YouTube channel was a brilliant masterstroke since that’s a great way to push the show in the right direction.
“He’s got a big audience on YouTube, and people will sample the show. Some people will like it, some people won’t, and some will troll it. But as long as people are reacting to it, I think we’re doing a job.”
Experiences Interacting With Players
Interacting with contestants was a memorable experience for Harman, and he recalls how the excitement was built from the shoot’s first day. “We started the show with a four-minute monologue that I spoke without a script. It was just an indication I really had fun because, first of all, it’s a new format. I have never done something like this before.”
The show’s unique content didn’t intimidate Harman, who delivered what he is good at – communicating with the participants to present a seamless experience for both the players and the audience. “I never ever present that face where I’m the host, and you are the people. It’s much more candid, and at the end, I have to talk about poker and how difficult it will be….I think you will be surprised by some of the things that happened in the show because it’s a little bit of reality and poker.”
Harman adds he’s very proud of the team that worked relentlessly to put the show together. “It’s not easy to make these shows because it is focused when you have a script, and you make a fiction show. But when you have a reality show, anything can happen anytime. You have to be ready for those moments.”
Harman insists that while he enjoyed talking to all the contestants, at the point of being over-friendly, he kept sight of the fact that he couldn’t be partial towards anyone in particular. Harman began his career with reality TV shows, primarily working behind the camera. During his early years, he learned that being dispassionate towards the participants is the ethical mantra you have to follow in reality TV shows.
Poker – Game or Gambling?
Harman notes that poker is yet to gain wide acceptance since, even today, most people across the country associate card games with gambling.
“My approach to this issue has evolved in the last five, six years. Earlier, I would be in a defense mode,” Harman shared, adding that while earlier he used to get angry, his new approach is more measured.
“Your ignorance is not my fault…the young kids across the globe have shown us, have proven to us that poker is one of the fastest growing sports to be a part of, play, be socially involved in, or be professionally involved in.”
Harman feels confident that while poker has grown immensely in the international circuit, there will be a sea change in the perception of the game among most people in India over the next 4-5 years.
Other Projects Beyond Poker
Harman, who is fresh off shooting for Season 2 of the Sony Live series, Potluck, let out that he is involved in two film projects, one for T-Series and another for a Dharma Productions project, tentatively pitted to be released next year.
“I’ve got small parts, and I’m very excited about it.”
He has also scripted a show for Dice Media called Bravehearts. “It’s a very heartwarming, five-episode show about short stories about people in the army. It’s not about war. It’s not about heroism. It’s about real people and emotions.”
Another project Harman is currently working on is a weekly show coming up as the NBA season kicks off. Basketball is Harman’s second love after poker, and he is grateful to be part of projects focusing on the two sports. “We have a weekly show coming up as the NBA season kicks off…the fact that I get to work with the biggest brands involved in these sports, it’s a very nice feeling.”
Is The Player Hunt Season 3 on the Cards?
According to Harman, it is! He refused to share specific details, only letting out that Season 3 will be on the floor in the next 4-5 months. Things are already on the drawing board, and the upcoming season will be bigger and better than the past two, with more glitz, glamor, and adventure thrown in!
Harman’s advice to anyone who fell out in Season 1 or 2 and other newbies interested in being boarded in for Season 3 is to work on their game and personality.
Referring to sports stars like Christiano Ronaldo, he emphasizes – “You can be the best performer on the court or on the table or on the field, but off camera is also very important. We’re judging people, gauging them on the Player Hunt basis of their personalities and whether they come across as champions or ambassadors of the game.”
With these words of advice, Harman Singha signs off!